Community tests use of drones in heart attacks
April 10, 2019
CALEDON, Ont. – To improve patient outcomes when cardiac arrest occurs in the community, the Region of Peel will take part in a pilot project in which Automated External Defibrillators (AED) will be delivered by drones.
Voluntary community CPR responders will use a mobile application called FirstAED to help administer the AEDs at the point of care, the Toronto Star reported.
Despite improvements in CPR quality, drug administration and airway management, cardiac arrest survival in most communities is “abysmal,” according to Dr. Sheldon Cheskes, medical director at the Sunnybrook Centre for prehospital medicine.
Early use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) and bystanders performing CPR have significantly improved outcomes, Dr. Cheskes added.
However, 85 per cent of cardiac arrests happen in the home and cardiac arrests that occur in public places only have an AED applied 15 to 20 percent of the time, said Dr. Cheskes.
Peel Health statistics indicate there are three to four cardiac arrests in the region every day. During cardiac arrest, for each minute that passes between the time a person collapses and defibrillation is applied, survival rates decrease by 7 percent to 10 percent.
“In 25 years, this is the most innovative thing we’ve come up with,” said Dr. Cheskes, at a recent meeting of regional council.
Cheskes is the lead researcher on Improving Outcomes from Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest: The Community Responder AED Drone Program.
The program involves the University of Toronto, St. Michael’s Hospital and the Canadian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, a group of resuscitation researchers and emergency medical services (EMS) partners.
The pilot project builds on the region’s public access defibrillation (PAD) program that started in 2014. To date, there are 194 AEDs owned by the region in the community and more than 250 volunteer responders trained to use the AEDs.
For the pilot project, about 150 volunteers will be recruited, screened and trained on using an AED and the FirstAED mobile application. The central ambulance communications centre will link calls to the nearest volunteer.
The AED will be delivered by a drone, which can travel 125 km/h. Dr. Cheskes said a recent study found drones are able deliver an AEDs ahead of median 911 response times, especially in rural areas.
“Canada is a leader in drone technology,” said Cheskes. “It’s really an innovative approach.”
“This is the next frontier,” added Peel chief administrative officer David Szwarc. “We’re very excited.”
Paramedic Services, along with Drone Delivery Canada, will take part in a series of test flights in Caledon, with drones travelling from paramedic station to predetermined destinations, according to a report from Nancy Polsinelli, the region’s commissioner of health services.
Test flights will include a recorded mock scenario of cardiac arrest that involves delivering a drone to a potential AED volunteer, the report added.
Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson called the technology “really important” and could be “extremely useful” helping people who experience cardiac arrest hiking on the Trans Canada Trail and other areas of the Niagara Escarpment where there are no roads for ambulance services.